Disruption in the automotive industry: A Cambrian moment

Xavier Ferràs-Hernández, Elisenda Tarrats-Pons, Núria Arimany-Serrat

Research output: Indexed journal article Articlepeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)


The automotive industry is experiencing a moment of innovation. With electronics gaining importance, the need to find sustainable solutions and the rampant availability of sharing platforms, the dynamics of this sector is witnessing a paradigm shift. A host of startups is colonizing every niche of what seems to be the new architecture: shared and self-driven electric vehicles. Old incumbents and emerging startups are interacting to control key technologies and the user interfaces of the future. The mechanical machine is being converted into a computer. The connected car is creating a new ecosystem for entrepreneurial opportunities. This study analyzes a set of 156 venture-backed startups: the nature of the firms, their founders’ profiles, their origins, their technological capabilities, and their investors. Our findings and conclusions are: (1) a phase of instability and vibrancy is beginning wherein multiple emerging firms compete to impose their standards, (2) the competitive battle is conducted in the digital arena, (3) disruption is led by outsiders with entrepreneurial experience and deep knowledge of digital technologies, and (4) a final winning dominant design may emerge. Entrepreneurial outsiders and outsiders coming from consumer electronics, electrical companies, and/or digital platforms have a window of opportunity to enter this new market.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)855-863
Number of pages9
JournalBusiness Horizons
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Automotive innovations
  • Cambrian moment
  • Creative destruction
  • Disruptive technologies
  • Global industries


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